James Gunn’s Suicide Squad character gets his own HBO Max series with mixed results but a winning central performance
The Suicide Squad, created by James Gunn, was a hilarious superhero series starring John Cena as Christopher, a 16-time WWE champion.
She’s his polar opposite in every way, a Black woman who doesn’t really have much of a stomach for killing, which presents an intriguing dilemma for her to grapple with over the course of the show’s story and becomes part of an intriguing mystery all its own, namely:
who was responsible for making her part of this team in the first place? The group is rounded out by several familiar faces from The Suicide Squad, including Steve Agee’s John Economos, equally as glued to a computer screen here when he’s not exchanging amusing tete-a-tetes with Cena, and Jennifer Holland’s Emilia Harcourt, who gets a few chances to do some brutal ass-kicking but does fall prey to the reducing character trope of being frequently put up on a pedestal for her looks by many different men when all she wants is to be taken seriously in her profession. There’s also Vigilante, played by Freddie Stroma, who seems to take particularly gleeful delight in committing violence —
so much so that he almost makes Peacemaker look like a pacifist by comparison.And therein lies the biggest issue with Peacemaker — the show stops just shy of going full-throttle in terms of its lead’s worst character traits, only to end up assigning them out to other, more despicable presences. His capacity and willingness to take out whoever he (or the government) deems necessary gets shuffled over to Vigilante, while Peacemaker’s extreme nationalism is handed off to his own father, personified with disguised menace by Robert Patrick.
Fans of the comics will know that the character has his own inarguably terrible history, and while that is explored to an extent, the show’s overarching theme of shitty dads feels like Gunn playing a version of his own greatest hits, albeit a less memorable one. Other story threads involving minor characters are relatively half-baked in execution Nhut Le’s Judomaster mostly appears for the twin purposes of beating people up and snacking on Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Even Peacemaker‘s biggest end-of-the-world-stakes plot seems like more of an afterthought dropped in amidst all of the intimate, character-driven storylines, which are significantly more engaging if not always emotionally impactful.
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